Parents on Tuesday blasted Superintendent Eric Ely’s decision to remove the coordinator of the International Baccalaureate program at the end of the year.
About 50 parents of the Friends of IB group met at Schenectady High School to discuss why Ely decided to reassign coordinator Rosaline Horowitz from the program, which offers a rigorous curriculum for 11th- and 12th-graders. Greg Wolos, the other coordinator, has resigned from the program.
Ely has said the school is is seeking a single coordinator to fulfill those roles.
To receive an IB diploma, students must pass exams in six subject areas, write a 4,000-word essay describing a research project, complete 150 hours of creative, action and service activities and participate in a critical thinking seminar called “Theory of Knowledge,”
Last year, only seven out of 19 candidates completed all the requirements to receive the full IB diploma.
Parents demanded answers from Associate Superintendent Gary Comley and Paul Scampini, principal on special assignment for school development, They said they were worried that making a change would cause a disruption and hurt the students.
“How can we expect anybody in the world to step in and get up to speed on this program?” asked Shirley DeBono.
Elena Alvarez, a parent who has been critical of the leadership, said she believes that administrators are making a mistake by replacing the coordinators because the program will lose institutional experience. She said the superintendent is not behind the program. The current coordinators are not administrators, so they did not have a direct line of communication to the superintendent.
“I feel the superintendent doesn’t have a good understanding of what the IB program is,” she said.
Wolos said he resigned from the program because he believes Ely did not fully support it. Wolos said the program should have its own “house” at the high school and IB students should be in their own homerooms so they can better communicate with each other. This was denied.
He said Horowitz was treated “abysmally” during this process.
Horowitz said the administration did not give them direction about the program.
“This is not supposed to be a teacher-driven program. We are supposed to be the caretakers of a district-driven program,” he said.
She said during the self-study, she and Wolos filled out the evaluations honestly. “We could have lied and we could have filled out everything saying we’re doing a great job. There are no problems here,” she said.
She also said she believes she irritated Ely by speaking to Board of Education member Maxine Brisport and parents about some of these problems. The final straw was when she was trying to get reimbursement of funding.
Some parents said Ely made it a personal issue.
Scampini said he could not comment on the specifics of why Horowitz was being reassigned because it is a personnel issue.
Comley acknowledged that the coordinators had been frustrated on trying to make improvements.
“They don’t have the clout of an administrator. They have to go through someone else,” he said.
SUPPORT FOR PROGRAM
Many parents said that Horowitz and Wolos were excellent instructors and really cared about the students.
“My son wouldn’t be in it if it weren’t for them,” said parent Jeff Flora.
He added that the statistics from a year ago should not affect this decision.
About 47 students are candidates for a diploma in the next year’s senior class and more than 200 students are in the pre-IB ninth- and 10th-grade program, according to Comley.
Comley said administrators have already taken steps to address problems the program has had including scheduling conflicts that prevented IB students from taking a certain class required for the program.
He said there was a series of meetings between the administration and Horowitz about the future of the program.
Scampini said after the school completed a self-review of the program, there were areas that were thought to be in need of significant attention, but he did not elaborate. He said the school has tried to address those areas.
Scampini presented some data showing that in 2004, 15 people graduated with the full IB diploma; in 2005, 17 did; in 2006, 16 did; and in 2007, only seven did.
Some were also upset that Ely was not present at the meeting; he was reported to be out of town. Nicole Simms, chairwoman of the Friends of International Baccalaureate, said the superintendent and the Board of Education were invited. Brisport was the only board member present. She attempted to assure parents that the board was fully supportive of the IB program. She added that there are personnel matters that cannot be discussed in a public forum.
The Friends of IB circulated a petition asking for Horowitz’ reinstatement and also planned to speak at the Board of Education meeting next month if they are not able to get a special meeting of the board.
Brynna Baldauf, an 18-year-old senior, said students saw the newspaper article about the IB issues and went “berserk.” She said she is fully supportive of the program because it will help in the future. “It teaches me time management. It teaches me more about the world,” she said.
Tim Owens, an IB teacher who teaches English and theory of knowledge, said Wolos is probably the most highly respected faculty member at the school and both were great stewards of the program.